Future You podcast transcript

Study creative health (with UCL)

Dan Mason, Editorial manager
July, 2021

Find out about a brand new postgraduate course at UCL, the Masters in Creative Health, which focuses on how the arts can help reduce public health inequalities - as Professor Helen Chatterjee explains in this episode of Future You


In order of first appearance:

  • Dan Mason - editorial manager, Prospects
  • Helen Chatterjee - professor of biology, UCL

Episode transcript

Dan Mason: Are you interested in helping to find creative community-based solutions to the sorts of health inequalities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic? Today on Future You we're talking about a new postgraduate course that might be just what you're looking for.

Welcome back to Future You, from graduate careers experts Prospects, here to help you achieve your career goals. I'm Dan Mason, and on this episode I'm speaking to Helen Chatterjee, professor of biology at UCL, about a brand new postgraduate course starting this year. Billed as the first of its kind in the world, the Masters in Creative Health brings research, policy and practice together to focus on the impact that the arts and culture can have on health and wellbeing. So if you're considering postgraduate study, and have an interest in how we improve public health outcomes across society, this could be right up your street. So don't make any decisions about your career plans until you've heard the details from Helen, coming right up now.

Helen Chatterjee: Hi everyone, I'm Helen Chatterjee. I'm a professor of biology at UCL and I'm the programme director for our new MASc in Creative Health.

Dan Mason: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for joining us, and I think before we come on to the details of that course that you've just mentioned there it's probably worth defining that concept of creative health and what that means to you.

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, the programme really focuses on how we can create the conditions and opportunities for arts, creativity, culture and other community assets to be embedded in the health of the public. And this is how we define creative health.

Dan Mason: Ok, and so in that in, that context, could you tell us a bit more about the the course and why particularly are you, have you created it now?

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, well the Masters in Creative Health at UCL is the first programme of its kind in the world. And the programme takes its name from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing's 2017 creative health inquiry report, and I'm an adviser to the APPG. And this report contains over 1,000 references to an amazing array of art space projects, programmes, research studies, and reports, showcasing the significant contribution that arts and creative engagement makes to health and wellbeing. And that report makes 10 recommendations and so our Masters in Creative Health is a direct response to recommendation eight, which is to create more education and training opportunities dedicated to the contribution of art to health and wellbeing.

Dan Mason: And just to add to that, you mentioned it's the first of its kind in the world. Why do you think that is? Why do you think this is sort of a new concept that's come up now, and it hasn't been sort of looked at before?

Helen Chatterjee: Well, I think that report from 2017 has had a really significant impact at multiple levels. So at a practical and professional level, people have been working around arts, creativity and community-based approaches to health for many years. You know, for over 30 years, really, we've seen examples for example of arts on prescription, and different sorts of ways that arts and community organisations have connected with health and social care. But I think the publication of that report, and the impact of it has been really significant, particularly at sort of policy levels around health, social care and community approaches to health. So I think a better understanding of how being more engaged in communities, particularly around arts and creativity can have a significant impact, both on preventative and remedial aspects of health, and indeed, social care.

So I think it's really timely now to think about what sorts of training do we need to support this burgeoning area of practice? And then more recently, we've seen a big increase in what we call social prescribing, which is the referral by healthcare professionals to sources of non-clinical support in communities. And as I mentioned, we've seen arts on prescription around for over 30 years. And that's a really big change within the NHS. So now, anybody any healthcare professional can refer somebody, a GP, practice nurse, social worker, can refer someone for this more social community-based source of support to tackle health problems. And that's really only just got off the ground in the last year or so, as the NHS have endorsed social prescribing through their universal care plan. So I think it's really timely that we think about then the training and support that we need to support community practice around social prescribing and community-based interventions in health with a focus on arts and creativity.

Dan Mason: Now, I know that something you really want to emphasise with this course is, or are the partnerships at community and national level. Could you talk a bit about those and why it's important to take that approach with this?

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, well, that's I guess, the core of the of the programme really is essentially the community-based links. So it's really important that we bring that in to the programme at all levels. So we're doing that in multiple ways. Firstly, we've got lots and lots of different community partners. Some of them are really local partners local to us here in London both Bloomsbury and then UCL East eventually, when near the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the Masters will move to in a couple of years. And that includes things like city farms, local play organisations, local artists, and art collectives, as well as things like museums and galleries, libraries, parks and green spaces, but also then through to working with some larger national organisations like Arts Council England, and our new National Centre for Creative health, which is directly linked to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts and Health, and is a key partner for us in the Masters in Creative Health. And then we've got organisations like the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance, and they're a collective, a network funded by Arts Council and they support around 6,000 different professionals, and creatives who are supporting on the front line arts, creativity and community-based approaches to health.

So through those sorts of partnerships, students will get an insight into both the research that feeds into what we mean by creative health, but also those kinds of very practical and professional approaches. So what do we mean practically on the ground, in terms of delivering programmes, activities, projects, and interventions, then through to that policy level. And I think that's what's really important is making those links between research, policy and practice. And that's really a core ethos of the programme. And we'll see that through both the taught modules, and then the compulsory community-based research dissertation, which is very much led by those individual community partners who submit research proposals to us. And then we make those available to the students and support a research project with them within those community partners.

Dan Mason: And so could you just go into a bit more detail than about and you've spoken about some of this already, but how, how arts and culture, support good health, and in particular, around helping to tackle inequalities?

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, it's a really good question and I think I'm going to draw here on the creative health inquiry report, because that has three key messages that really sums up how we know that arts, creativity, and I would include in that wider community approaches, so for example, engaging in parks and green spaces, and we know that they can keep us well, aid recovery and support longer lives better lived. And by that we essentially mean by being more cognitively, physically and psychologically engaged in our communities. And we know that through research, studies have shown that the arts, creativity and communities can help meet major challenges facing health and social care. So issues around ageing, long term and complex conditions, loneliness and mental health. And so in the long term, we know that these sorts of assets and resources and engagement with arts and creativity and communities will help save money in the health service and social care. And I think this has never really been more urgent as we've seen the devastating effects of the COVID pandemic on the poorest members of society. And we've seen that they have been adversely and disproportionately affected by coronavirus. So, essentially, the poorer you are, the more likely we are to suffer the more devastating effects both of the virus itself but also the corollaries of that. So socio-economic impacts, for example. So what has really become apparent throughout the pandemic, and really an enhanced understanding over the past ten years of what we call the wider social determinants of health. And Michael Marmot and other researchers and teams at UCL who've been working on health inequalities for many years, have known that basically, the NHS alone can't tackle those sorts of very complex health problems.

So for example, somebody who's got complex needs who's, for example, using multiple services, so they might be visiting their GP a lot, they might have multiple outpatient appointments in different clinics, for example, for complex conditions like diabetes or obesity, dementias, they probably also, if they're suffering, if they're living in a very poor area, and they're a very poor individual, they might also have problems say with housing or debt. So we know that all of these wider social effects have a significant impact on both physical and mental health. And we know that community assets such as museums, libraries, parks, arts and other community organisations have a really significant role to play in supporting vulnerable people with complex needs. And that's really where the creative health Masters at UCL fits in. Because what we're really interested in is developing and adapting and creating creative health approaches to tackling inequalities. So how can we make sure those sorts of community assets and resources are linked to the people who need it most. And that's really significant because people who are living in the poorest areas often face significant barriers to accessing those sorts of resources. So I think there's still a lot of work to do. And this is where our students can really help to tackle the heart of the problem of health inequalities, to understand how best to support the people who need it most and who are the most vulnerable in our society.

Dan Mason: Yeah that's, that's absolutely fascinating. I think that gives us a really good background to the course. So if we move on now, who is this course for? That's quite a broad question. But who you're looking for in terms of a student's academic professional backgrounds, entry requirements, you know, who you're looking to sort of get involved with this?

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, we're really interested in anybody who's interested in these more creative approaches to tackling health inequalities. So the sort of standard route for people will be having an undergraduate degree ideally took to 2:1 level. Now those undergraduate degrees can really come from a vast swathe of disciplines, because the core aspect of the Masters in Creative Health is that it's a MASc. So it's not just a new field of study. But it's a completely new qualification that we've created at UCL, it's a world first. So it's a Master's in arts and sciences, which is bringing together a range of different disciplines from across the arts, humanities, medicine and sciences, taking an interdisciplinary approach to tackle these complex global challenges such as health inequity. So because of that, we're going to be drawing from all of those different disciplines. And therefore what we're interested in is attracting anyone really who's got a background in any of those areas. So you could come from a background in arts and humanities, or something more science or medicine. And that might include, for example, psychology, medicine, or biomedicine, nursing or allied health professionals, other aspects of sciences, for example, I'm a biological scientist, or indeed the arts, liberal arts, humanities and social sciences.

I guess what we're really looking for is students who've either got previous professional experience in the fields of arts, culture, health, or social prescribing, or community-based approaches, or perhaps some volunteer experience, or who can demonstrate that they're really interested in this area, perhaps some from previous work they've done as a volunteer, or, for example, they've done throughout their degree. And if you haven't got a degree, then that's something we'd really like to talk to you about. So we, we are able to admit students who have a background that is different from having a standard UK academic undergraduate degree, but we would have to discuss that with you. And that really, that's where you need to have quite a strong professional background in the fields of creative health or social prescribing or community-based health. So do come and talk to us if you fit into that category. But as you can see, in terms of background, it really is quite broad. And for us, it's about attracting students who've got that demonstrable interest in a creative approach to tackling health inequalities.

Dan Mason: Ok, and so for those students that then do come on to the course, could you just give a bit of an overview of what they'll be studying the sort of format and structure and you've mentioned some elements of assessment, you mentioned a dissertation already, but just sort of package that up for us.

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, so students will do four core modules for all the students will do the following modules: a module, which is a sort of like an introduction to the whole concept of creative health. It's called arts, nature, wellbeing, non-clinical interventions to health, they'll also do a, what we call lived experience in, in research, policy and practice. And that's really about recognising that what we're talking about here is social interventions, community-based approaches, so individuals lived experience and that personalised approach to healthcare has to be really at the heart of what we're teaching. And that's just a brilliant opportunity to draw from our very wide network of partners, friends, people with lived experience, who are going to come in every week and talk about their own experiences. That might be from a professional point of view, it might be from a personal point of view. And that will really expose the students to that really deep understanding of what we mean by creative health. And then we've got two sort of what I would call scaffolding modules. So the really essential research methods in arts and sciences and this is where students will learn from across the vast swathes of methodologies that you need to be able to understand and in many cases apply both from the quantitative spectrum and the qualitative spectrum. But we'll also be asking students to explore and really think critically about more arts and creative-based approaches to research, you know, how can we really capture that lived experience and the participant experience in research, and that's very challenging when we're talking about looking at health outcomes. And then finally, a much more conceptual understanding of interdisciplinarity through a core module called approaches to interdisciplinarity. And that's where students will have that really important scaffolding about those all-important frameworks to what we mean by working at the margins of different disciplines and drawing from different disciplines to make new approaches and develop new methods and new understandings.

Then students will get a chance to choose from a couple of optional modules. And we've got a really vast swathe of these from across all the different departments and faculties at UCL. So really, anything that intersects with health students can choose from, and then the dissertation, which I mentioned, and so the dissertation accounts for half of the credits for the whole degree. So it is a really important part of the programme. And by the time you start your dissertation project, as a student, they'll hopefully then have all of those skills and the background experience and a wider understanding to enable you to apply that knowledge to tackle these real world challenges and problems that our community partners will be bringing to that dissertation. So you're making as a student there a really significant contribution to that organisation. And sometimes, you know, that can be working on very specific programme evaluations, for example, it might be using existing data that organisations have collected that they haven't had the time or expertise to be able to analyse. We've had students in the past, looking at, for example, policy developments within organisations, so organisations that want to shift their strategy and funding to be able to tackle new community challenges. Or, for example, it might be helping an organisation to reach out to new audiences. So that might be doing some piloting with some new activities and testing out new ideas within the community. So this is something we've actually piloted within our art, nature, wellbeing module. And it's worked really, really well. And we've got a really lovely, broad range of partners who are really keen to work with us. And students, I think, can make a really significant impact, as well as having really great experience and learning a lot.

Dan Mason: So obviously, this is a new course so you don't have any alumni to point towards. But could you talk to us a bit about what careers you envisage graduates from this course going on to?

Helen Chatterjee: Yeah, well, I think the key aspect is about connecting up research, policy and practice so there are obvious avenues there in terms of, for example, working in government, whether it's central government, local government, or within think-tanks, or NGOs. And if you're interested in research, there's a real need to grow the evidence base. And this has never been timelier, as we've seen these new initiatives like social prescribing, open up roots to make arts and creativity more accessible. But we still need the evidence base to substantiate that and to really understand what works. And I guess, finally, if you're interested in a job in health or social care, or in social prescribing, the NHS has recruited over 1,000 link workers, they're the people who support and help navigate towards sources of support in the community, they're committed to employing another over 4,000 link workers over the next few years. So there's opportunities there. Also, of course, across the arts, cultural and creative sectors. So within those sectors and across other community organisations, we're seeing increased availability of posts that are really dedicated to that more community wellbeing approach to tackling those issues about connecting people up, and we've seen that also across the voluntary and third sector. So increasing numbers of charities, and organisations setting up specifically to tackle this need to approach communities in a different way and support communities. And then I think within local government as well, we're seeing big changes in the way that local governments manage their budgets. There's big changes happening within the health system around what we call integrated care systems. And that's really about having better connectivity between things like NHS trusts, the primary care networks and the GPs, and aspects of social care, housing services, parks, leisure, tourism, we're trying to connect up all of these different aspects of health and social and community care so that essentially services are better connected, and also individuals are better served, particularly for those people who have got complex needs. So again, we're seeing shifts and new posts arising out of that so for people who can do that connectivity better and really understand the need to have what we're calling creative health partnerships, and I think there will be job opportunities around that and we're already seeing that across the integrated care systems that we're working with through the National Centre for Creative health so that we we know that there will be opportunities in those areas.

Dan Mason: Brilliant. And just finally then, where should anyone go if this is, you know, sparked any interest and hopefully it will have done where should people go for more information and how do people apply for the course?

Helen Chatterjee: If you go to the UCL website and you click how to apply, and you search for the MASc in Creative Health that will pop up and you can apply through there. We've also got a website with lots of information dedicated to the Masters in Creative Health and you can hear some of the background to the programme, you can look at the different modules and core options and, core and options that you can take and more about the dissertation projects. You can hear some of the videos that we've recorded from our launch events and other information events and has lots of FAQs on there. And then I think if you want to understand more broadly what we mean by creative health, the best place to start is the creative health inquiry report from the APPG. And if you just Google 'creative health inquiry report', that report will pop up. And that's really a core piece of reading for anyone who's interested in creative health and it will certainly be a core piece of reading for students on the Masters programme.

Dan Mason: Fantastic. Well, Helen, thanks so much for your time.

Helen Chatterjee: You're welcome. Lovely to meet you. Thanks for having me.

Dan Mason: Thanks to Helen for that introduction to the creative health course, a really timely and intriguing new option if you're interested in postgraduate study in this field. As Helen mentioned, head to the UCL website to learn more and to apply. And you can also follow @MASCUCL on Twitter for updates that's @MASCUCL. If you're considering postgrad study, but aren't quite sure about where to turn or what's available, go to prospects.ac.uk where you can search for courses and find lots of advice on everything from choosing the right subject through to funding opportunities, and much more. We've got more great career insights from employers and graduates coming up on the podcast so make sure you follow Future You on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or on the website prospects.ac.uk/podcasts where you can also find full transcripts of every episode. Please do share this episode with anyone who you think might find it useful or be interested in that creative health course. And you can send over any feedback, comments or suggestions to podcast@prospects.ac.uk. That's it for this episode. Thanks again for listening, and I'll see you soon.

Transcript ends

Note on transcripts

This transcript was produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

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